WWI Postcard Research

In my senior year as an undergrad history student I participated in a class where we learned how to research and create a physical historical exhibit. This was such an awesome experience for me. There were only six of us and our instructor, so it was a challenge, but so satisfying in the end. We decided to name our exhibit Then Came a Post: Postcards and the Challenge of Communication During the Great War. As you might imagine, we had to look at tons of postcards for this project. We did a big chunk of our research in the archives of the National World War I Museum where our exhibit later went for a final peer review and then, at last, to hang on display. I was so honored.

English and German soldiers.

English and German soldiers.

There were so many interesting post cards and I learned so much. The postcard I am sharing with you was one that didn’t quite make the cut for our exhibit, but that I found so interesting because it was one of twelve postcards that belonged together. This was number ten and the writer, a soldier on a military camp in Texas, essentially wrote a letter on the back of these twelve postcards. Because none are postmarked, it appears that they were all sent together, probably in an envelope. However, in doing this the sender not only conveyed a feeling or sentiment, he also sent a visual message. It was like a primitive Tweet. You could only fit so many words on the back of a postcard, although, I did run into several that were crammed from edge to edge with words.

Letter from an American soldier just before he left for Europe. At the writing of this letter, he was still in a Texas military base.

Letter from an American soldier just before he left for Europe. At the writing of this letter, he was still in a Texas military base.

Postcard image courtesy of National World War I Museum Archives and Benton Boice, who took the photo.

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